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I am sorry, but I am going to have to discontinue the option of subscribing to new posts via e-mail. Unfortunately, this plugin was causing 500 errors in my database, which those of you who are not technically inclined probably don’t care about.  It looks as though the plugin requires a larger sleep time between queries than my host will allow, or at least that’s my suspicion, and because it isn’t feasible for me to change hosts right now, I will have to disable the plugin, which means if you subscribed to receive e-mails whenever I write a new post, you will no longer receive those e-mails.  However, I would like to invite you to discover the joy that is RSS, if you haven’t already.  If you click on my Subscribe link at the top, you will be able to subscribe to my RSS feed via your favorite feed reader.  I suggest Google Reader, but I liked Bloglines well enough before I switched.  In addition, you can get updates via MyYahoo or iGoogle.

Once again, I apologize for the inconvenience, and thanks for reading my blog.

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Accessing Austen Part 3: Manners, Manners

In reading Jane Austen, one of the things I think students might find most foreign is the very different sense of propriety.  Manners and customs were quite different from our own time as evidenced in her novels.

The first thing students might notice is that her characters tend to refer to each other as Mr. Darcy or Miss Dashwood rather than Fitzwilliam or Elinor.  Students tend to think this formality is cold and detached; however, at that time, it would have been considered inappropriate to address most people by their first names.  Exceptions could be made for married couples, siblings, and friends of the same gender.  For example, in Northanger Abbey, Catherine becomes close enough to both Isabella Thorpe and Eleanor Tilney to eventually address them by their first names, but when she first becomes acquainted with both, she refers to them as Miss Thorpe and Miss Tilney respectively.  After Mr. Knightly has asked Emma to marry him, the following amusing exchange takes place:

“‘Mr. Knightley.’–You always called me, ‘Mr. Knightley;’ and, from habit, it has not so very formal a sound.–And yet it is formal. I want you to call me something else, but I do not know what.”

“I remember once calling you ‘George,’ in one of my amiable fits, about ten years ago.  I did it because I thought it would offend you; but, as you made no objection, I never did it again.”

“And cannot you call me ‘George’ now?”

“Impossible!–I never can call you any thing but ‘Mr. Knightley.’ I will not promise even to equal the elegant terseness of Mrs. Elton, by calling you Mr. K.–But I will promise,” she added presently, laughing and blushing–”I will promise to call you once by your Christian name.  I do not say when, but perhaps you may guess where;–in the building in which N. takes M. for better, for worse.”

Emma is clearly joking with Mr. Knightley, but there is something to her assertion that she thought calling him by his first name would be offensive.  Indeed, some married couples continued to refer to each other as Mr. __ and Mrs. __.  Indeed, in the opening of Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet refers to her husband as “My dear Mr. Bennet.”

In addition to this rule for address, rules for visiting were also fairly conservative in the eyes of modern readers.  Early in Pride and Prejudice, Mrs. Bennet expresses a desire to visit Mr. Bingley, but she says to her husband, “Indeed you must go, for it will be impossible for us to visit him if you do not.”  As Mr. Bingley is a man, it would be improper for him to become acquainted with the Bennet ladies without Mr. Bennet.  Indeed, it was considered highly improper for unmarried men and women to be alone together without a chaperon, which is a rule her characters are known to fretfully break on occasion.  For instance, Catherine Morland is talked into going to Blaize Castle by Mr. Thorpe on the grounds that if she does not go, his sister Isabella will be the only woman on the trip, and think how that would look!  Catherine later frets about the appearance of riding alone with Mr. Thorpe, and even her chaperon in Bath, Mrs. Allen, frets that she should not have allowed Catherine to go.  Indeed, Marianne Dashwood visits Combe Magna — unchaperoned — with Mr. Willoughby.  Let’s not even get started on Mr. Wickham and Lydia!  However, I contend that Austen usually punishes her characters who deviate too far from social norms.  Marianne loses Mr. Willoughby to a woman who has more money, and Lydia winds up with a nasty jerk of a husband who only marries her because Mr. Darcy — Mr. Darcy! — gives him money to pay off his debts if he marries her.  Of course, Marianne winds up with an arguably better man in Col. Brandon, but poor Lydia is most likely doomed to an unhappy marriage and a whisper of scandal hanging about her for the rest of her life.

Country dances provided an opportunity for couples to meet and mingle.  If you’ve read Gone With the Wind, you may recall that Scarlett’s youngest sister, Careen, begs her parents to be allowed to go to the ball that evening after the Wilkes’ barbecue; however, because she is not yet “out” in society, she cannot go to a ball.  Presumably, girls would “come out” at marriageable age, which was perhaps a bit younger for Scarlett and her sisters than it usually was in Austen’s time.  After a girl’s “coming out,” she could go to balls and dances.  It was considered rude to decline a gentleman’s offer to dance and then agree to dance with another gentleman, and likewise, a young woman had to be careful how many times she danced with a particular gentleman or tongues would wag.  Isabella intimates that she has danced with James Morland too many times, and thus they will be gossiped about in Bath (yet she dances with him again anyway) in Northanger Abbey.

If it became known that an unmarried man and woman corresponded with each other, others would assume they were engaged.  Frank Churchill and Jane Fairfax in Emma keep their correspondence very quiet.  The only hint that Jane might be corresponding with someone comes when Mrs. Elton chides her for going to the post office in the rain.  When Elinor Dashwood finds out that Lucy Steele and Edward Ferrars are writing each other, she is sure they are engaged (which they are), and when she wonders whether or not Marianne and Mr. Willoughby are engaged, she looks for correspondence to confirm her suspicions.  Of course, it’s interesting when characters break this rule of etiquette.  Who could forget the scene in which Captain Wentworth writes his letter to Anne to set the record straight after overhearing her (Persuasion) or Mr. Darcy’s hand-delivered letter to Elizabeth?  In both cases, the gentleman was discreet about delivering the letter lest gossip ensue (and each feeling fairly certain their affection was unreturned).

Propriety was a large concern in Austen’s novels.  Characters strove to appear to be doing the correct and/or acceptable thing in society.  Those characters who didn’t — such as Marianne or Lydia — were frowned upon by others in society.  While today’s teenagers might relate to Marianne and see Elinor as detached or cold, one could argue that Elinor’s strength is that she always maintains proper decorum even in the face of being hurt by doing so; therefore, in the end, Ms. Austen rewards her heroine with the true love she thought she had lost.  Indeed, most of her characters who act with propriety come out all right in the end.

In composing this post, Notes on Random Topics from Pride and Prejudice from the Republic of Pemberley was very helpful, as was David M. Shapard’s The Annotated Pride and Prejudice.

This post is the third in a series on teaching Jane Austen’s novels.

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The Teacher’s Daybook 2008-2009

My copy of Jim Burke’s handy teacher’s planner, The Teacher’s Daybook, arrived this week.  I mentioned previously that the planner had been published before July in the past, but this year was released on July 10, and I wondered why.  It turns out the planner runs from August to July for this year, and my guess would be that the change is permanent.  I would imagine the change was made because most schools start in August and it makes more sense for that to be the beginning of the year, but it leaves previous Daybook users with a month-long gap for this year.  It’s not a terribly big deal, except that I have a meeting on Tuesday, and I like to have things like that written down in my planner in the proper place.  And yes, I am a little OCD.

The weekly calendars have been revamped, and time will have to tell about whether I like it or not.  The old calenders had more space, which was good for me because I usually have four or five preps, and the large space made dividing my preps easier.  The smaller spaces will possibly still work for me.  If you are a teacher with one prep (and if you are, I hate you — not really — I’ve had one prep before and still hated my job), you should love the change.

Anyway, Jim Burke is ten kinds of awesome, and if you are an English teacher (or really, just a teacher), do yourself a favor and check out his Web site.  He is the graphic organizer king.

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Grammar Girl

Grammar GirlLast night I met up with Megan to see Mignon Fogarty, aka Grammar Girl, at the Decatur Library in an event sponsored by the Georgia Center for the Book.  Unfortunately, by the time I arrived, there were no more books left, so I was unable to get a signed copy of her new book, Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing.  The auditorium was packed, which prompted the question (several times) “Who knew grammar was so popular?”

If you are an English teacher and haven’t discovered Grammar Girl, you need to go check out her site and listen to some of her podcasts.  She responds to questions submitted by her listeners, and she discusses one grammatical issue per episode.  You can easily incorporate the podcast into your class — it’s usually only about five minutes long.  Fogarty announced that she will now be doing the podcast twice a week rather than once, so you can even make it a part of your class as an opening activity for two days a week.

One thing I thought was interesting was that during the Q&A, a language arts teacher started to ask a question, but someone behind her in the audience exclaimed when she made a grammatical error in her speech — using a reflexive pronoun in the subjective case.  She didn’t realize her error at first, and when she did, she was noticeably embarrassed and, I think, justifiably angry.  We all make grammatical errors when we speak.  If we had to stop and think as hard about correctness when we speak as much as we do when we write, we would never talk.  I think pointing out people’s grammar errors when they speak is just plain rude.  The woman didn’t ask her question, and there was this wave of discomfort that passed through the room.  That kind of thing is why people don’t like English teachers, for I can almost guarantee it was an English teacher who did it.  I am not saying we shouldn’t teach students to write using correct grammar, but if we make them feel scared to even open their mouths in our classrooms, how much are they going to learn from us?

Anyway, I really enjoyed Grammar Girl’s talk, but I really wish the Georgia Center for the Book had anticipated the crowd.  It really stank that they ran out of books.  For the curious — Megan let me thumb through her book, and it is basically transcripts of her podcasts.  By the way, I disagree with Grammar Girl regarding the possessive of a singular noun ending in s.  Grammar Girl likes the AP Style Guide’s recommendation that singular nouns ending s simply have an apostrophe: Kansas’ statute.  I don’t understand why the s changes the rule, and I agree with Strunk and White that it should be Kansas’s statute.  A fun activity for your students to explore regarding this issue can be found among my unit plans at the UbD Educators wiki: write a letter to Rep. Harrelson of Arkansas, who lobbied to have the official possessive of the state of Arkansas rendered Arkansas’s and tell him whether or not you think he was correct (giving him evidence based on consulting several grammar texts).

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The Death of the Salesmen: A Flat World Lens for Arthur Miller’s Play

Regular readers of my blog know I am really invested in backward design (Understanding by Design or UbD).  I have several UbD units posted over at the UbD Educators wiki, but I decided maybe I should explain them a little bit more just in case you are interested in using them.

After I wrote my UbD unit for Arthur Miller’s play Death of a Salesman, I was really excited to explore it with my students.  At the time, I had either just finished or was in the midst of reading Thomas Friedman’s The World is Flat.  Friedman actually mentions Willy Loman in the book, and it occurred to me the play could appeal to my students if we looked at it through a modern lens — outsourcing, or what Friedman refers to as “the Death of the Salesmen.”  I tied one of the themes of the play — that the world has passed Willy by and gradually made him obsolete as he failed to keep up — with a very real phenomenon in our society.  Outsourcing is a huge concern in America, and over the last few decades in particular, we have also seen some jobs eliminated by technology.

My essential questions for the unit are as follows:

  • What is the American Dream? Why do some achieve it while others are cut out?
  • What is the importance of being “well liked” and popular?
  • How do we form our identities?
  • How do capitalism and modernization affect American workers?

Through exploring these question, I hoped my students would come to the following understandings:

  • The American dream is an undercurrent of American society, but is not attainable by all in our society.
  • Popularity and being well-liked do not necessarily equal success.
  • Our identities are formed in a variety of ways, including our family of origin, our career choice(s), and our hopes and dreams.
  • Capitalism and modernization are forces that have great impact on American society.

By the end of the unit, I hoped my students would be able to do the following:

  • Analyze the impact of globalization and modernization on society and compare it to the “outsourcing” of Willy Loman.
  • Synthesize information about globalization and modernization from various sources.
  • Determine what skills 21st century workers will need in order to be successful in a global economy.
  • Evaluate how globalization and modernization will impact the concept of the American Dream, how we form our identities, and how we define success or become successful.
  • Relate Death of a Salesman‘s themes and message to American life in the 21st century.

First, we read the play, all the while having discussings about how Willy could be a modern character.  The 1940′s, when the play was written, seem very far away from our students today, but I think this play is very modern in many ways, which I addressed in my essential questions.

After we read the play, we watched Karl Fisch and Scott McLeod’s video “Did You Know?” and discussed the ideas it presents:

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

We watched an episode of The Simpsons about outsourcing called “Kiss Kiss Bang Bangalore”:

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

Finally, we viewed a Discovery Times special featuring Thomas Friedman called “The Other Side of Outsourcing”:

Please enable Javascript and Flash to view this Flash video.

I have discussion questions for each of these videos, and it occurs to me I probably should have put them on my flash drive so I could upload them here.  I will update this post in the future and attach the proper documents to the bottom of the post.

We also read excerpts of The World is Flat; specifically, we read “Death of the Salesmen” (256-259) from chapter four “The Great Sorting Out” and chapter six “The Untouchables” (278-307).  Page number refer to the edition of the book I linked.  Again, there are guided study questions.

Finally we synthesized all we had seen and read in a discussion that centered around the following questions:

  1. How can outsourcing possibly produce more Willy Lomans?
  2. What do Americans need to do in the 21st century to avoid the fate of Willy Loman?
  3. What sort of shift do you think will happen in the concept of the American Dream?

Then I gave my students their job, which was to explore these questions in a handbook created for either high school graduates or college graduates (I assigned them randomly on the suggestion of our Learning Specialist) that would be a helpful guide for young people navigating our increasingly flattening world.  I asked the students to consider the following in their handbooks:

  1. What will the graduates need to do to ensure they always have a job?
  2. What will they need to do to compete in a global economy? What skills will they need?
  3. What do you recommend they do to stand out, to become “untouchable”?
  4. How is Death of a Salesman a cautionary tale in a flat world? — Draw a parallel betweeen the fate of Willy Loman and the possible fate of many other American workers today. What can readers of your handbook do to avoid his fate?

I am not going to lie and say the assignment was a blazing success.  I will say the reason it wasn’t was most likely due to the particular makeup of students I had and the fact that they were seniors who were checked out.  I do believe it would be engaging for different students.  It wasn’t a total failure either.  I do think the students enjoyed examining these questions and thinking about them.  Only about half of them really wanted to do the assignment, though.  That half did a really nice job.  Given the time of year and particular makeup of the class, I consider the unit as a whole a success, and I would definitely do it again.  What I like about the assignment is that it enables students to examine literature through a modern lens, and I think they enjoyed it more than they otherwise would have.

Here is a link to the UbD unit over at the wiki, and here is a printer-friendly link.

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How I Built This Site

I received an e-mail from Ashley, but my e-mails in response are bouncing back to me, so I decided to answer her question here.

I use WordPress to power almost all of this site.  This main page, huffenglish.com, is my blog.  I use wikis for a few pages on which I discuss general teaching ideas, and I built some others (notably the webquests and scavenger hunts) using HTML, but it’s all WordPress-powered.  When I started the site, I was using Movable Type, and the main page for a short time was not this blog, but was built using a stylesheet from Movable Type.  If you mean where is it hosted, I use Bluehost.  I haven’t had the kind of major issues with them as I had with my last host, Maxipoint, but I can’t give a glowing recommendation either.  If you have questions about how I created a particular page, feel free to ask.

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Writing and Reflecting

After I viewed some pieces on the DVD that accompanies Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them, I thought about my improvement as a teacher over the last few years, and I have decided that a lucky confluence of two events contributed to making me a better teacher: I began teaching at Weber four years ago, and a year later I began writing this blog.

Working at my school with an administration that has supported my efforts to grow and try new things, like blogging and wikis and other ideas, has been so freeing, and if I had not found Weber, I wonder if I would be blogging now or trying some of the other things I’ve tried.  In fact, I wonder if I would be teaching.

Here I am, in the middle of July, and I’m blogging about education and reading education books and blogs.  Why?  I can take a vacation, right?  The thing is, I really want to be back in school and try it all over again.  I am lucky in that my school doesn’t mind that I blog.  This is huge in an era when blogs are routinely blocked at schools, never mind encouraged.  I have always been able to blog about my journey as an educator, here, under my real name, and not worry about it.

And the blogging is what really made me a better educator.  I really began thinking and reflecting about my practice in a way I hadn’t done before.  I read professional literature and wrote about it here.  I jumped in and took risks with projects, and even if they failed, I felt better for having tried.  I shared.  I asked questions.  I helped.  I got feedback.  The audience I have here has truly been helpful to me as I struggled to figure out who I was as an educator and what I wanted to do.

I am excited about the next school year already.  Each year is better than the last.  I am learning and growing all the time.  Blogging has energized me and made me excited about my career.  I have struggled with my career in the past and even quit teaching for a time.  Now I just can’t imagine doing anything else, and this reflection, this space to think and discuss ideas, has given that to me.

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Write Beside Them: The Opportunities in a Writer’s Workshop

Write Beside ThemIn chapter 6 of Penny Kittle’s Write Beside Them, the reader gets a glimpse into how a writers’ workshop might run.  The first thing I wished was that I had a writing class all year next year on a block schedule.  I really want to go out and try everything!  Based on the schedule Kittle outlines, she has 90-classes, and she also mentions A and B schedules, so my hunch is that she’s on an alternating block schedule.  Her writing course is a one-semester course.  My own school schedule is so complicated that I’m wondering how and when I can implement some of her ideas that I really liked.  For example, I would really like to try Sustained Silent Reading.  When I was a student teacher, the high school where I did my student teaching assignment had school-wide SSR two days a week.  Everyone in the school — teachers, students, administrators, janitors, everyone — was expected to read for that twenty minutes.  Magazines were OK.

Here’s what my schedule looks like:

  • Mondays: Block 3: 7:55-8:35; Morning Program: 8:38-9:21; Block 4: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 5: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 6: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 7: 2:12-2:57; Block 8: 3:00-3:45.
  • Tuesdays: Block 5: 7:55-8:35; Prayers: 8:38-9:21; Block 6: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 7: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 8: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 1: 2:12-2:57; Block 2: 3:00-3:45.
  • Wednesdays: Faculty Meeting: 7:45-8:30; Block 1: 8:35-9:21; Block 2: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 3: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 4: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 5: 2:12-2:57; Block 6: 3:00-3:45.
  • Thursdays: Block 7: 7:55-8:35; Prayers: 8:38-9:21; Block 8: 9:24-10:09; Double-Block 1: 10:12-11:45; Lunch: 11:45-12:27; Double-Block 2: 12:30-2:03; Break: 2:03-2:12; Block 3: 2:12-2:57; Block 4: 3:00-3:45.
  • Fridays: Block 1: 7:55-8:35; Morning Program: 8:38-9:19; Block 2: 9:21-9:59; Block 3: 10:02-10:42; Block 4: 10:45-11:25; Lunch: 11:25-11:53; Block 5: 11:56-12:36; Block 6: 12:39-1:19; Block 7: 1:21-1:59; Block 8:  2:02-2:45.

I know what you’re thinking, and yes, it did take me a whole year to learn it.  We rotate the schedule so that each class has one double-block per week along with three regular blocks and one day off.  On Fridays, we finish up at 2:45 to allow students who travel from far away to get home in time to prepare for Shabbat in the winter.

So given that I don’t meet with my students on a schedule that’s regular, my first thought was that Fridays would be a good day for SSR, but how long can I realistically devote to it then?  I could make the day when the class has double-block another day, but again, how long?  Is 10 minutes OK?

Another thing I took away from this chapter is that I need to work on writing conferences.  I do not allow students to do enough of the talking, and they are walking away trying to fix their writing to please me so I will reward them with a good grade instead of really learning to write well.  The good news is that I can fix it, and happily, Kittle provides models on the DVD.  I wrote Listen more!  Talk less! in the margin of my book.

Finally, it occurred to me that two of the suggestions Kittle mentions — publishing writing students wish to share on a shared drive on the school’s network and creating posters for units of study — could also be done and perhaps even more effectively on a wiki, even if it was a closed wiki that only the students could use.  The added advantage would be that students could keep adding to the information and writing pieces gathered, even after they were no longer students if they wished, and they could also access the wiki at home.  Wikis would also have the advantage of being hyperlinked, so if students wanted to link to an online editorial they found interesting for further reading, they could easily do so.  Kittle has mentioned the multi-genre research paper, but so far only in passing.  I hope we get a good picture of what it looks like because based on what I’ve read, it also looks like a prime candidate for a wiki.

I’m guessing I should be getting my Teacher’s Daybook any time now.  I need to start planning, and I mean really planning.

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To-Do List

I am having some trouble with my computer, so until I can get it checked out, I have to share with my husband.  We don’t have a history of being able to share very well!  We’ll see how it works out.  Unfortunately, if my hunch about the computer is right, it won’t be a cheap repair.

That said, my to-do list for tomorrow is to catch up in Write Beside Them, and when it’s my turn on the computer, I’ll try to post all my thoughts on the discussions at the wiki.

One benefit of having more restricted access to a computer is that I won’t be as distracted by the computer, so perhaps I can get more reading done.  However, if the computer can’t be fixed, I’ll need to purchase one for my IT program because there is no way we will be able to share if I have to do school work.  Ugh.

Anyway, if posting is even more spotty than it already is, well, you know why.

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Accessing Austen Part 2: What the Heck is a Pelisse?

One of the reasons Jane Austen is a favorite in Hollywood, in my opinion, is the clothes. Costume drama is always much more expensive than drama that requires no period clothing or sets, but cost hasn’t discouraged adaptations of Jane Austen’s works.

It is probably important for students to remember that until the advent of the sewing machine, all clothing had to be made by hand. In Emma references are made to a clothing shop, so doubtless many items could be bought from various clothiers; however, some items were often made at home, sewn by hand. Women were expected to know how to sew, and due to expense, they needed to be very good at repairing, refurbishing, or recycling clothing. I found two excellent articles, “Understanding Jane Austen’s Society” and “Regency England: Money Makes the World Go ‘Round,” that detail exactly how expensive clothing was in Jane Austen’s day, and with some detective work¹ (because the first article is aimed at an Australian audience), I discovered some interesting details:

  • Silk stockings — 12 shillings (£20.38 or $40.24 in today’s currency!)
  • Woolen stockings — 2 shillings 6 pence (£4.25 or $8.39)
  • A white silk handkerchief² — 6 shillings (£10.19 or $20.12)
  • A pair of gloves² — 4 shillings (£6.79 or $13.41)
  • A simple white dress — 5 shillings (£8.49 or $16.77)
  • A fan — 5 shillings (£8.49 or $16.77)
  • Simple shoes 6-11 shillings (£10.19-18.68 or $20.12-36.89)
  • Walking boots 2 pounds (£67.92 or $134.12)
  • Cotton fabric — 1 shilling per yard (£1.70 or $3.36)
  • Enough cotton fabric for a dress — 6 shillings ($20.12)
  • Velveteen fabric — 2 shillings 10 pence (£4.81 or $9.50)
  • Enough silk fabric for a dress — 1 pound 6 shillings (£44.15 or $87.18)

Depending on the fabric, making a dress would be very expensive, and according to Pamela Whalan (author of the first article), purchasing a dress made by a dressmaker would be about twice as much as making one’s own. One would probably have to purchase items like hats, gloves, shoes, and stockings because they required more specialized knowledge to make. In an interesting article about silk stockings, I learned that stockings were created either by “hand knitters or those using a stocking frame. Frame knitters were the ‘professionals’ in the business and could turn out 10 pair a week. Hand knitters averaged only 6 pair of stockings per week.” The article includes an illustration of a stocking weaver using a frame to make stockings. Perhaps these statistics explain why they were so expensive.

There is no doubt that Austen refers to items of clothing with which students might not be familiar. Consider this a handy glossary for some of the clothing items to which Ms. Austen refers:

Bonnet: A cloth or straw hat tied under the chin worn by women or children (Merriam-Webster Online). See Bonnets: High Style in the Regency for different types.

Breeches: In the early Regency, breeches were pants worn at the knee (similar to Revolutionary War pictures of Washington, Franklin, and their fellows); later, the breeches became longer, eventually giving way to trousers similar to modern pants (see picture on bottom of post). Note: in England, “pants” are underwear and what Americans call “pants” are called trousers.

Chemise: Short-sleeved undergarment for women.³

Corset (also known as Stays): Female undergarments used for support and slimming purposes; unlike their future counterparts, Regency corsets were not overly constricting and were similar to modern brassieres. Worn over a chemise or shift.³

Cravat: A man’s band or scarf worn around the neck or a necktie; see picture on bottom of post (Merriam-Webster Online).

Drawers: In the late Regency period, women wore long pant-like undergarments called drawers (later on, bloomers). Drawers were cinched with a drawstring.

Dressing Gown: A kimono or robe-like garment worn over a nightgown or nightdress, usually in the morning before dressing.

Empire waist: This is the term we use to describe the high-waisted dresses and gowns worn by women during the Regency period. The waistline was sometimes as high as just under the bustline.

Full Dress: Women’s evening wear (i.e. what one might wear to a ball).³

Half Dress: Women’s afternoon wear.³

Mantle: A loose, sleeveless cloak-like garment worn as outerwear (Merriam-Webster Online).

Muslin: A sheer cotton material that became popular because it was easy to care for.

Nightshirt: Over-large shirt worn to bed by both men and women.

Parasol: Small umbrella-like shade carried by women to ward off sunlight and preserve the complexion; parasols would have been inappropriate for rain as their decoration would most likely be ruined and the materials would not have repelled water.

Pelerine: A woman’s narrow cape made of fabric or fur and usually with long ends hanging down in front (Merriam-Webster Online).

Jane Austen's pelisse

Pelisse: A dress-like overcoat that hung nearly to the hem of the skirt. The sleeves were close-fitting and long, and the collar was high. Pelisses were often trimmed with fur and lined with silk. Austen refers to pelisses in her novels Persuasion and Mansfield Park in addition to her personal letters. Left is a picture of Jane Austen’s own pelisse [via Hantsweb].

Petticoat: An underskirt worn much like a modern slip.

Reticule (also called a Ridicule): A small, handmade purse or bag, sometimes ornamented with tassels or beads. Reticules were fashioned from a variety of materials and sometimes had drawstrings. Austen mentions a reticule in her novel Emma.

Riding habit: Clothing worn for riding horses; see Riding Habits throughout History

Sarsenet (also Sarsnet or Sarcenet): A soft silk in plain or twill weaves or a garment made of such (Merriam-Webster Online). Austen mentions sarsenet in Northanger Abbey.

Shift: A slip-like undergarment that fell to the knee; sleeves were elbow-length.³

Jennifer Ehle wears a Spencer jacket in Pride and PrejudiceSpencer: A short jacket that fell to the raised waistline. Worn by both men and women, this jacket was a warmer weather jacket than the pelisse. To the right, Jennifer Ehle as Elizabeth Bennet wears a Spencer jacket in a movie adaptation of Pride and Prejudice [via The Jane Austen Centre].

Tailcoat: A man’s coat with tails similar to some types of tuxedo coats worn today. Tails on tailcoats are long and taper to a point. Tailcoats often fell to the waist in the front (see picture on bottom of post).

Train: Trailing fabric at the hem of a dress most often seen today in bridal gowns.

Undress (also known as Dishabille or Deshabille): Women’s day clothing.³

Waistcoat: A men’s vest, sometimes double-breasted, worn under the coat (see picture on bottom of post).

Walking Dress: Clothing worn for walking, also called Promenade Dress. Walking dress included a bonnet or head covering of some kind, gloves, and some type of wrap or outer garment (a pelisse or spencer, for example).³

Here is an example of typical men’s dress in the Regency period (Colin Firth as Mr. Darcy in Pride and Prejudice):

Footnotes:

  1. Tools I used to figure out cost equivalents are a currency converter set at 1810 (UK National Archives) and a Google currency converter from British pounds to American dollars.
  2. According to the article, Jane Austen herself actually paid 6 shillings for a handkerchief and 4 shillings for gloves and mentions it in letters dated from 1813.
  3. Regency Fashion” at the Jane Austen Centre.

This post is the second in a series on teaching Jane Austen’s novels.

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